The 17-year-old set out with two students in his engineering class, Dylan Miller and Josef Spanbauer, to find a solution to the problem: A windshield that blocks sunlight and automatically activates when a driver leaves the car. The device employs liquid crystal display (LCD) technology that is typically associated with computer and television screens.
The trio showcased the idea on Capitol Hill last month with other high school students, presenting their work to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and other leaders.
To aid their demonstration, the group used the classroom’s 3-D printer to build a miniature truck. The students disassembled a graphing calculator, retooled the screen and installed it as the truck’s windshield. They then hooked it up to a power source and demonstrated that LCD screens can be made transparent if a few of the components are removed.
Dylan said the class, which is part of a national program called Project Lead the Way, has served up some hard lessons about engineering. The program brings high-level engineering classes into high schools to give students a taste of what engineering training in college might be like.
It’s one of several efforts to expose students to engineering before they reach college. In a special program at the Governor’s School @ Innovation Park, students put together a prototype for an award-winning app to curb distracted driving.
At Woodbridge High, teacher Tim DeFelice has required students to look up patents to see what other products are on the market and to price out their product. That’s when Dylan learned that liquid crystal components can run hundreds of dollars for mere ounces, which could pose a serious challenge to making their product.
“The whole class is to teach about the process and everything that’s involved in creating your own product,” he said.